Tales from the road: Maintaining a work-life balance

Aug. 4, 2017
This tech-savvy dealer knows when to "switch off."

As soon as he pulls up to the curb outside of a shop on his route, Mac Tools distributor Dana Bourne stands up to grab an armful of miscellaneous products on 'special' this week. He puts them into a wheeled bag, slings his tablet-carrying satchel over his shoulder, hooks a Bluetooth-enabled receipt printer to his belt, and is off and on a mission.

The 12-year-old dog that's been quietly tucked away on a dog bed at the back of the 20' 2015 Ford F-59 finally perks up and heads to the driver's seat as soon as Bourne closes the door and makes his way to the shop. Bourne’s dog, Coco, a customer-favorite, has been accompanying him on the route for about two years. She seemingly knows the drill and eagerly waits on the truck.

With a route based in Lake County, Indiana, Bourne does a lot of his business in customer shops to save time. Thanks to his Windows Surface Pro, portable printer, and bag of tool specials for the customers who can't make it out to the truck, he can be "100-percent mobile."

 "Some guys – I’ve had customers for three years, and they’ve never been on the truck," Bourne confesses, although he says his mobile-friendly business model hasn't affected truck traffic. "They just buy what I bring in and ask me for stuff."

He says the main benefit of his system is the time-savings of not having to trek back and forth, to and from the truck and the shop to complete small tasks, like printing a receipt, for example.

"This system here has saved me 45 minutes a day," Bourne says. "I was able to add one or two more shops. Or, just go home early. That’s worth it right there."

Home in time for dinner

Bourne says he makes it a point not to run late, even while making 30 stops a day in the Lake County, Ind. area.

"I don’t work too late anymore," he says. "I’ve done this so long now, I’ve figured it out. I’m done about 3:30/4:30 p.m. I get up really early – 4 or 5 in the morning."

Bourne, a self-proclaimed morning person, has always wanted to be his own boss for this reason: no work "drama," and schedule flexibility. But with being a tool dealer, there are some challenges. His biggest? Chasing people for money.

He says he usually loses about $10,000 a year on skipping out. He could also be easily losing hours on it, too. But somewhere along the line he decided that staying out late, sometimes until 8 or 9 p.m., wasn't worth it.

"You’ve got to figure out home and family life balance," Bourne, 39, says. "That’s the key. When I go out on the weekends, I don’t think about work. I don’t give it another though until I get back on Monday. Whatever is there can wait."

His wife, a full-time special education teacher, is also a busy person. Together they have a six-year-old son, so getting home by dinner time is how he stays connected to his family. 

"When I'm done at night, I park the truck, I get off – I don't care what's left," Bourne says of switching work-mode off.

When he's not a technology-focused mobile tool distributor he's with his wife off-roading, on his boat, or his motorcycle.

"I've got more toys than time," Bourne laughs.

Still one of the guys

On the route, he uses his past experience to his advantage, to understand his customers and serve them conveniently.

Bourne didn't start out as a salesperson, and even after three years as a Mac Tools distributor, he doesn't consider himself one.

He has always been a technician. First at a Chevy dealership, and then at Goodyear Tire. In between that time period he was a "tire guy," and then a store manager at Firestone Tire. So when Bourne is on his route, there's an air of ease about it. He says the products sell themselves. Of course, he has his selling tactics, but mostly, he says, he just considers himself a resource to his customers.

"All I do is make points about how it would help them," Bourne says. "The more information you give them, the more you can justify the cost. Being a mechanic really helps me because I know what they need."

About the Author

Vesna Brajkovic | Associate Editor - Vehicle Repair Group

Vesna Brajkovic is a former associate editor for the Vehicle Repair Group.

Brajkovic has covered the transportation industry for a number of trade publications, with a focus on the vehicle maintenance and automotive aftermarket industries since 2016. Prior to that, she covered the global aviation industry as assistant editor for Endeavor Business Media's AviationPros.com, and held a number of editorial positions at an award-winning community newspaper.

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